Juvenile Justice Agency Partners Sought for “Teens on Probation” Research Study

Posted in Announcements

Professors Craig Schwalbe (Columbia University) and Debi Koetzle (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) are seeking juvenile justice agency partners for an important study on youth comprehension. Below is a description of the “Teens on Probation Study.”  

If you are a leader of a juvenile justice agency and are interested in adding to the body of knowledge in the field by participating in this study, please contact Professors Schwalbe and Koetzle directly at css2109@columbia.edu and dkoetzle@jjay.cuny.edu.

“Teens on Probation Study”

Reforming the juvenile justice system along developmental principles is an urgent priority for many states and local jurisdictions. Adolescents on probation encounter systems of rules, obligations, and conditions that place them in daily jeopardy of non-compliance and failure. Youth who are non-compliant are more likely to have continued involvement in the juvenile justice system, institutional placement, and chronic involvement with the criminal justice system as adults. There is emerging evidence to suggest that non-compliance is exaggerated when adolescents have an inadequate understanding of the rules and conditions imposed on them. 

The current study has two aims. The first is to explore the relationship between comprehension and compliance and whether it differs based on individual perceptions and experience. The second is to test whether comprehension can be enhanced and whether improved comprehension improves outcomes with regards to court orders and probation conditions. Overall, this study will provide practical guidance and strategies to juvenile justice agencies by individualizing their approaches according to the developmental needs of adolescents they serve.

Using an experimental design, this study will test (1) the relationship between comprehension and compliance and (2) the efficacy of the comprehension enhancement interview (CEI) with a sample of adolescents on probation (N = 200). The CEI was adapted from teach-back interventions in medicine and nursing to improve treatment adherence and is designed to strengthen three aspects of adolescent comprehension: specific content knowledge about probation rules and conditions, knowledge about rewards and consequences for compliance and non-compliance (reasoning), and knowledge for the relevance of their rules and conditions for their long-term goals and ambitions (appreciation). In addition, the study will explore the three dimensions of adolescent development that are hypothesized to moderate the relationship between comprehension and compliance: (1) legal socialization and legal cynicism, (2) socio-emotional development, and (3) identity development. Outcomes of the study include legal outcomes reported in probation case files (minimum 3-months), parental report of adolescent behavioral outcomes (6-week follow up), and adolescent daily self-report of their compliance within a 1-month follow-up period. All study procedures have been approved by the Columbia University and John Jay College Institutional Review Boards.